Rad Geek People's Daily

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Posts from September 2008

How cops see themselves

A few days ago I wrote a post that referenced a story in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine. POLICE is a glossy journal of blue thug culture, which includes charming pieces like America Needs a Surge Against Gangs, How to Justify Officer Safety Searches, Working Informants. Here is a collage of cover photos from the past two years of POLICE.

Here's a cover with a photo of an armed cop standing next to a National Guard soldier with a flag in the background, captioned "Standing Guard" Here's a cover with a photo of two armored SWAT police coming around the corner, with the one in front pointing a huge shotgun obliquely towards the camera. Here's a cover with a photo of a cop aiming a gun at the target on a training range. Here's a cover with a photo of heavily armed SWAT police standing in the door of a huge armored vehicle, aiming a shotgun obliquely at the camera, with the headline "Heavy Metal Thunder: Armored Vehicles Give SWAT the Winning Edge" Here's a cover with a photo of a cop standing in darkness, pointing a lit-up handgun obliquely at the camera. Here's a cover with a photo of a heavily armed SWAT police, with a helmet and body armor, charging directly at the camera with a shotgun pointed directly at the camera, with the headline "SWAT Saves Lives". Here's a cover of a patrol cop's rear end and gun holster, with the cop about to pull the handgun out of the holster. Here's a cover with a photo of a gang of heavily armored SWAT police, with face-plated riot helmets and heavy body armor, forcing a prisoner in an orange jump suit to the ground, captioned "SWAT behind bars". Here's a cover with a photo of a cop in an ordinary blue duty uniform looking through the site of a huge assault rifle, pointed at a target off-camera. Here's a cover with a photo of an armored SWAT police firing a huge TASER shotgun obliquely at the camera, with the shock-delivery projectile actually flying out towards the viewer. Here's a cover with a photo of a patrol officer crouched in combat posture behind a huge SUV with police markings, with her handgun drawn and pointed at a target off-camera to the left. Here's a cover with a photo of an armored SWAT police charging towards the camera, holding an assault rifle that's currently pointed at the ground. Here's a cover with a photo of a line of about 5 or 6 armored SWAT police in body armor and helmets, coming around the corner of a yellow school bus, with the caption "Are Terrorists Targeting Our Schools?" Here's a cover with a photo of a SWAT police in body armor, wearing sunglasses and squared off facing the camera, with a large assault rifle in his hands.

This is a selective collage–but the selection includes the majority of the covers POLICE has printed over the past two years. That’s the way that a magazine staffed and written almost entirely by current or former police, and written for an audience of professional police, on the subject of policing, has chosen to brand itself and its contents for its prospective audience. What do you think that says about the way government cops see themselves these days? What sort of model do you suppose images like these suggest for police to use to understand the ethics and the attitude that they need to adopt in their professional lives? What do you think that a publication like this encourages them to think of when they think of what their job is all about, and what kind of posture they should adopt when they deal with non-police — with people like you and me and our neighbors — on the street or in our homes?

Do you feel safer now?

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Plains-spoken philosophy

(Via Roderick and my dad.)

Back when I was an undergraduate, I had the unexpected privilege of spending about two and a half years in one of the best Philosophy programs I could possibly have found–the Philosophy department at Auburn University. Those of you who know me probably know, and those of you who just know the blog may have guessed, that part of the reason for that was meeting and spending a lot of time studying with Roderick Long. Another important reason was the time that I spent studying and talking with Kelly Jolley, the current Chair of the department. It would be impossible to list all the philosophical, intellectual, and personal debts that I owe to Kelly, Roderick, and the rest of the faculty at Auburn (James Shelley, Mike Watkins, Eric Marcus, Jody Graham, …). So I’m really pleased to see the New York Times Magazine’s article about Auburn’s philosophy program, and Kelly in particular, which gives you a glimpse into a really quite remarkable story — the role that Kelly’s personality, teaching style, and indefatigable efforts played in transforming the Auburn philosophy department into the best department in the University, and a paradigm of liberal education at its very best — demanding, challenging, collegial, invigorating, and life-changing. And all this in the midst of a big state school that used to be dismissed as that cow college on the other side of the state.

It’s certainly a story that’s much deeper, more compelling, and ultimately much more useful than anything you’ll find in the firehose spray of little squibs and blurbs on lipstick or politicians’ summer homes or the sanctimoniously-executed power-plays and poll results for the Hopesters and Changelings of the world. Philosophers are constantly heckled — mainly by those who confuse busy-ness with importance and operational success with a life well lived — that philosophy, and the broader projects of the humanities and liberal education, are silly projects — useless really — because they don’t matter to what’s called real life. But if the sort of kitsch and trash that our practical journalists spread all over the front pages of our practical newspapers is what matters to your life, and philosophy is not, then the question you need to ask yourself is why is that the sort of life that I lead? And it’s as good a reason as you could ask for to change your life and to change the things that matter to it. And what I love about the Auburn Philosophy department, and one of the (many) things that I’m personally indebted to Kelly Jolley for, is the fact that that department really provides a place — one of the best examples of such a place that’s left in this modern world — where students are challenged to do that, expected to do that, encouraged to do that, and given access to the tools and the space and the teachers that they need for it.

Tolle, lege.

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U.S. Supreme Court grants reprieve to Troy Davis

The United States Supreme Court has issued a stay of execution to stop, at least for the time being, the State-mandated murder of Troy Davis.

The State of Georgia was planning to murder Troy Davis about an hour ago. They were planning to do so even though his conviction was based entirely on the testimony of nine eye-witnesses, seven of whom have since recanted their testimony and claimed that they were intimidated into giving false testimony by threats from the cops. Neither physical evidence nor a murder weapon was ever produced by the police. But the Georgia Board of Paroles and Pardons refused to give Davis a new evidentiary hearing, to investigate whether or not this man was about to be murdered based on nothing but lies, because a man’s life means nothing next to the importance of finality in the State’s criminal system. Yesterday the Georgia Supreme Court refused to stay the execution because, in their view, U.S. Supreme Court properly has jurisdiction over Davis’ pending petition, and a man’s life means nothing next to the importance of due deference to another judge’s turf. Never mind that, under normal circumstances, the U.S. Supreme Court would not even have been ready to hear Troy Davis’s plea for a new evidentiary hearing until after the State of Georgia killed Davis. Thankfully, after agreeing to an emergency hearing, the Supreme Court did the right thing and put a halt to the killing, at least until after Davis’s petition can be heard.

JACKSON, Georgia (CNN) — The U.S. Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a Georgia man fewer than two hours before he was to be executed for the 1989 slaying of an off-duty police officer. Troy Anthony Davis, 39, has his execution stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Troy Anthony Davis learned that his execution had been stayed when he saw it on television, he told CNN via telephone in his first interview after the stay was announced.

He said he was thankful to God for the news that came during an emergency session the U.S. Supreme Court convened.

Davis said everyone should pray for the slain officer’s family.

The 39-year-old also said that he is very grateful for everything that everyone is doing for him and that he would accept whatever decision the Supreme Court rendered in the coming days about his case.

At the Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, a crowd of Davis’ supporters, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, erupted in cheers when Sharpton announced the stay. Some shouted Hallelujah!

— Rusty Dornin, CNN (2008-09-23): U.S. Supreme Court stays Georgia execution

And Amen.

(Thanks to mi hermana for making my day better with this story.)

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ALLy ALLy oxen free….

Guess who wins a government award, from the Ministry of Cultural Exchange in this secessionist republic of one, for the most attractive ALL local outreach logo?

The answer is Shawn Wilbur, of the Northwest Alliance of the Libertarian Left, with his call for ALLiance in Occupied Cascadia:

Northwest Alliance of the Libertarian Left - Join!

Sure beats my photoshop defacements of tourist traps and paint company logos, anyway. Congrats, Shawn!

Alliance of the Libertarian Left Ad Hoc Global Organizing Committee

Now, then. Do you know any individualist anarchists, agorists, mutualists, left-Rothbardians or others on the libertarian left in or nearby any of the following metropolitan areas, who might be interested in getting involved, or getting more involved, in local activism and organizing? (If that description matches you yourself, that's good enough, too.)

If so, please drop me a line with their contact information. I have some requests from prospective local organizers who are looking for people to start locals for the Alliance of the Libertarian Left. I would love to be able to put them in touch with anyone locally who might be interested.

On the subject of the Organizing Committee website, I’ve been getting some very good suggestions from other ALLies about materials to make available up there, and sketching out a few ideas of my own on paper. Most of these I hope to be adding over the next several days.

The main one that is now available, more or less live, is a feature to provide contact pages specific to each location where the Organizing Committee has gotten inquiries (click through on the links to each city above — for example, Baltimore — to see what it looks like). The main point is to have a landing-pad for each place we get an inquiry from, and to give prospective ALLies more information about how many people are interested in getting organized. Right now, this consists of a landing page, a map with one or more pins representing inquiring ALLies, and a quick count of the number who have inquired. My hope is to make this somewhat more sophisticated over time (right now, it’s mainly just some pretty wrapper over an e-mail form; I hope to add some features to find, e.g., how many people are interested in a particular state, possibly some sort of public Wall feature, etc.). But this will do for a start.

What I’d like to work on for the next few days is adding advice on getting started, on organizing, on ideas for activism, and so on. I’ll be incorporating some of the suggestions I’ve gotten already, and I’d like to put together some pages specifically on:

  1. A step-by-step guide to starting a new ALL local (along the lines of guides like Seven Steps To Starting A Food Not Bombs Group);

  2. Some advice focusing on organizing locals on college campuses, in particular;

  3. A sampler platter of actions and projects that existing ALLs have worked on, with an eye to giving people ideas for what they can do to kick off their ALL local, and what they might do as they get themselves established.

Which leads me to ask you all, gentle readers:

  1. If you have any suggestions, either for particular ideas or pieces of advice to add, or for focused sections that you think would be particularly useful, let me know. Let’s discuss in comments. And…

  2. If you were to pick out a sampler of four or five actions or projects that your own ALL local has worked on, or that some ALLies you know about have worked on, which you would like to add as suggestions for ALL organizers trying to make plans for a new ALL local, what would you pick? Let’s discuss in comments.


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You got served and protected #4: how Portland Police Bureau Officers Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane used a “welfare check” to throw Contia Orsby out on the streets

(Via private correspondence from an ALLy in Occupied Cascadia.)

Here’s something I wrote about last year in my article for The Freeman:

Had the city government not made use of its supposed title to the abandoned land [to fence off the lot that the Umoja Village shanty-town had been built on], it no doubt could have made use of state and federal building codes to ensure that residents would be forced back into homelessness—for their own safety, of course. That is in fact what a county health commission in Indiana did to a 93-year-old man named Thelmon Green, who lived in his '86 Chevrolet van, which the local towing company allowed him to keep on its lot. Many people thrown into poverty by a sudden financial catastrophe live out of a car for weeks or months until they get back on their feet. Living in a car is cramped, but it beats living on the streets: a car means a place you can have to yourself, which holds your possessions, with doors you can lock, and sometimes even air conditioning and heating. But staying in a car over the long term is much harder to manage without running afoul of the law. Thelmon Green got by well enough in his van for ten years, but when the Indianapolis Star printed a human-interest story on him last December, the county health commission took notice and promptly ordered Green evicted from his own van, in the name of the local housing code.

Or, hell, they might not even bother with the regulatory formalities. Sometimes the cops just roll up on you for a welfare check and then take the opportunity to steal your home.

For example, Contia Orsby is a 58 year old black woman, who has spent most of her life helping sick people and, as far as I know, never did any real harm to anybody. She’s originally from Louisiana, and now living in Occupied Portland. She used to work as a geriatric nurse, but three years ago, she hurt her back so bad on the job that she couldn’t work anymore. The hospital gave her $14,000 to live off of for the rest of her life and then pawned her off on the state welfare bureaucracy, because they could, and the state welfare bureaucracy gave her the usual waiting time of forever, because they could. (They stay paid no matter how they act, and where else is she going to go?) When the money ran out, she got some help from her church, and when that ran out, she started living in her car. Which is cramped, and unpleasant, but sometimes safer and easier than trying to find people to put you up, and certainly safer than living on the streets.

Until July 4, 2008, when a pair of Gangsters in Blue decided to roll up on her and search her as part of a welfare check. Here’s how they looked out for her welfare–by stealing her car and throwing her out on the street.

On July 4, Portland Police Bureau Officers Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane rolled up on Orsby at 2 pm as she was slumped in her car outside an apartment complex on SE 122nd. They searched Orsby and found a pair of brass knuckles in her pocket, which she claimed she was using as a key ring. The officers charged Orsby with having a concealed weapon, driving with a suspended license, and driving without insurance. Instead of taking her to jail, they towed her car, handed her the citations and drove off, leaving her homeless on the street.

All three charges against Orsby were thrown out last Thursday, September 11, after the district attorney’s office declined prosecution.

Matt Davis, Portland Mercury (2008-09-18): Towing the Line: Cops Take Car, Leaving Older Disabled Woman Homeless

In real life, outside of statist power-trip La La Land, if you fuck something up that doesn’t belong to you, for no good reason, you pay for it. Normally, if a pair of gang-bangers rolled up you and rousted you out of your car, against your will, when you weren’t doing anything at all to harm a single living soul, sanctimoniously claiming it was for your own good, then searched you, and rifled through your papers, then demanded to know why you were carrying a pair of brass knuckles (as if it mattered–if she were carrying them for her own protection, what’s wrong with that?), then called you a liar and declared your papers insufficient justification for your existence, and then, finally, used all this as an excuse to jack your car and threaten you with a fine you can’t pay or forced confinement in a jail–if they did all this, I say, and they got caught out, those gangsters would be in jail and they would be expected to return the car they’d stolen and pay for what they did out of their own pockets. But because these gang-bangers were Gangsters in Blue, and because they acted with the biggest gangster of all, the State Law-and-Order Protection Racket, at their back, when these charges were dropped, and the whole thing declared a big mistake, Portland Police Bureau Officers Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane are virtually guaranteed never to suffer a single adverse consequence for their obvious, pointless, and cruel violation of poor people’s property rights. And neither they nor their bosses, the collaborationist puppet government of Occupied Portland, will do anything to make it right, beyond an Oops, our bad; in fact, they feel perfectly happy to force Contia Orsby to pay hundreds of dollars that she doesn’t have, just to recover her own property from the fence they sold it to.

CONTIA ORSBY, 58, stood with the deacon of her church on the lot of Andy’s Towing on SE 82nd last Friday afternoon, September 12. She was there to retrieve her all-white 1988 four-door Cadillac Brougham, bought five years ago for $4,700 from a used car lot up the street, during more fortunate times. It had briefly been her home, until police confiscated the vehicle on Independence Day.

Orsby had already handed over $400 to the towing firm, and $225 to get a release for her vehicle from the courthouse. Still owing $600 more, the manager of the towing company had generously cut her a deal.

He told me if I promised him $200 from my next disability check, I could come and get the car today, she said.

Too bad, because the towing firm had lost the keys: They called a locksmith, and tried to charge Orsby for the cost of cutting some new ones.

We’re doing you a favor, the manager told her. We’re only supposed to keep the car, technically, for 30 days.

Orsby refused to pay for the locksmith, and ultimately, the towing company handed over her car. Her deacon, Albert Woods, from the Emmanuel Church of God in Christ United on NE 30th, had taken the afternoon off to drive Orsby to the towing lot. He shook his head.

They wouldn’t treat her like this if she were the president, that’s for sure, he said.

Matt Davis, Portland Mercury (2008-09-18): Towing the Line: Cops Take Car, Leaving Older Disabled Woman Homeless

It’s true, and the management were certainly acting like dicks to her. But why can they get away with that kind of behavior? Simply because, as the fence for the cars stolen by the State, they have no reason to care about making things easy on you, or Contia Orsby, or anybody else. Why should they? They get most or all of their business from people like the President, not from people like you–people who are part of the State, a monopoly outfit which pays for itself through extortion rackets and robbery just like the screwjob they pulled on Contia Orsby, and who use their positions of political power to evade taking any responsibility for their own violations of the liberty and security that their cops and their so-called Law and Order are supposed to protect. Like any other fence, this one doesn’t much care about your life or your livelihood, and he doesn’t much care about helping you recover your stolen property. He serves the racket, not you. Do away with the racket, and you’ll do away with the other petty criminals and hangers-on that take their cuts from the loot.

You can contact the Portland Police Bureau to let them know what you think of their welfare checks and of Joseph Cook and Judy McFarlane’s efforts to force poor people out onto the street, at:

Portland Police Bureau
1111 S.W. 2nd Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97204

You can send comments to Chief Rosie Sizer at chiefsizer@portlandpolice.org, or call her office at (503) 823-0000, or send a FAX to (503) 823-0342.

I’ve said before that urban poverty as we know it is exclusively the creation of the State, and now I’ll add that this is especially true of homelessness as we know it. I don’t mean to claim that in a genuinely free society, with freed people, freed labor, and freed markets, with freedom for the poor and with no political patronage for the rich, that nobody would ever have to scratch by on short money. And I don’t mean that nobody would ever have to live without a house or apartment for a while due to short money. That would be a lot less common if people were free to scratch money together through creative hustling, to lower their fixed costs of living, and to join together for voluntary, neighborhood-based mutual aid, without having to bear the burdens of State-imposed taxes, usury laws, vagrancy laws, prohibition laws, border laws, business license laws, zoning laws, business laws, professional licensing laws, building codes, health and hygiene codes, fines and forfeitures, eminent domain land grabs and politicized development rackets, welfare bureaucrats, social workers and cops, and the rest of the whole taxation-and-regimentation government apparatus that constantly robs, cages, and busybodies poor people, all while sanctimoniously declaring that it’s all For Their Own Good, like one big welfare check on the Contia Orsbys of the world. If people were free of all that, hard times would be a lot less hard, but nobody can realistically promise an end to all tough times or shitty situations, whether by Anarchy or by any other means. Some people might lose their jobs, some people might go hungry, and some people might lose the roof over their heads. But homelessness as we know it — as a long-term, self-reinforcing downward spiral of destitution, in which hard times force people out onto the street, exposed to the elements and to danger from other people, or into overcrowded and dangerous institutional shelters — only exists because the State — the city and state governments, in particular — has a fixed policy of repeatedly sending gangs of thuggish police and busybody case-workers and bureaucratic inspectors around to hassle so-called vagrants; to subject them to constant citations, fines, arrests, and pointless humiliations; to roust them up out of any place that they settle in to stay; to violate their rights to homestead unused land, and to obstruct, invade, trash, or tow away any transitional, intermediate, or otherwise informal sort of shelter that poor people might try to arrange for themselves. It’s one thing not to be able to afford the sorts of houses and apartments and long-term rooming arrangements that journalists and economists and sociologists count as homes for the purposes of statistics and public debate. It’s quite another to be thrown out on the street without any kind of reliable shelter, and we all ought to recognize that as the child of the State. In that sense, all homelessness is forced homelessness, and all homeless people are the internally displaced refugees of the State’s ongoing War on Poverty and campaigns of economic cleansing.

But a rich man he says that Pig Hollow must go:
It’s a place where the crooks rendezvous.
But don’t you suppose if they burned down the bank,
They might flush a scoundrel or two?

And don’t you suppose if a bum with a torch
Set fire to some big fancy hall,
The cops’d come down like a blood-thirsty hound
And flat nail his hide to the wall?

It seems like the laws are all made for the rich;
They’ve got you, boys, win, lose, or draw.
Try as you may to keep out of the way,
You just get burned out by the law.

— Utah Phillips, Pig Hollow, on The Telling Takes Me Home (1975)

That’s how Contia Orsby got served and protected by Portland cops: by being thrown out of the car that is her home, on the excuse of a bunch of petty so-called crimes with no identifiable victims, having it towed away, and then, months later, when the State magnanimously allowed her to be left the hell alone, by being forced to pay to get it back even though she was never convicted of any crime, victimless or otherwise. If you're baffled that cops could get away with these kind of outrages, it may help to remember that in a lot of American cities, there just is no such thing as a civil police force. What we have would be better described as thuggish paramilitary units occupying what they regard as hostile territory: like any occupying force, the people they go after the first and the hardest are generally the people who are most vulnerable, and like any other occupying force there is no real recourse for anything they may choose to do on their patrols. Here as elsewhere, they are going to serve and protect us, whether we want them to or not, and if we don't like it then they've got plenty of guns and clubs and cuffs to make sure they can protect the hell out of us all anyway.

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